Support for Germany's opposition Social Democrats (SPD) has reached its highest level in six years, helped by the nomination of former finance minister Peer Steinbrueck to fight Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year's election, a poll showed.
The Forsa poll published on Wednesday, the third in a week to show gains for the centre-left party, put the SPD up one point at 30%, with Merkel's conservatives also up one point at 36 percent.
The gains put the SPD, the main opposition party, at a level it has not seen since November 2006 when it shared power with Merkel in a centrist "grand coalition", Forsa said.
The SPD named Steinbrueck more than a week ago as its candidate for chancellor and his combative style should make for a lively campaign.
"Steinbrueck is pulling things together and mobilising non-voters," Forsa chief Manfred Guellner said.
Steinbrueck has also shaken off criticism of his lucrative earnings from speeches, books and company boards which dominated headlines for a few days last week. While he still lags Merkel in personal ratings, he has halved the gap since his nomination.
In personal approval ratings , h e stood at 35%, up a point from a week ago but still 11 points behind Merkel whom voters trust to manage the euro zone debt crisis.
The Greens, the SPD's preferred coalition partner, were unchanged at 12% and the Free Democrats (FDP), who share power in Merkel's centre-right coalition, stagnated at 4% - below the threshold needed to enter parliament.
The Socialist Left party and maverick Pirates shed one point each - to 7% and 6% respectively.
Analysts say Steinbrueck could win over centrist votes from Merkel's conservative camp, partly due to his reputation as a safe pair of hands during the financial crisis.
He served as finance minister under Merkel between 2005 and 2009 but has vowed not to share power with her again. Even so, many analysts say the most likely outcome of the election will be another 'grand coalition' of the conservatives and the SPD.
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